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Hell on Wheels Pilot Reaction

November 8, 2011

Overall, the pilot episode of Hell on Wells was mediocre. I say mediocre in that it did not wow me nor did it bore me. It fulfilled the usual quota for Western dramas with handfuls of gratuitous violence coupled with brooding thoughts by the troubled protagonist. Though the church murder scene is not innovative, I appreciate the cliché (think In Bruges) to make the main character Bonnahan one with serious moral hazard. Though the transitions were a bit choppy, especially with Durant’s initial investment pitch followed by the hogwash one-on-one conversation, the scenes had an off kilter balancing act going between the hazy scenes on the Hells on Wheels location and the opulence of Durant’s quarters (I couldn’t help but think he was some demonic money fiend with a hint of insanity, not as much as that dude in the wheelchair from Wild Wild West). A sucker for Westerns, I’d end up watching the rest of the season regardless of our assignment for class; but on an overall note, I conclude most of my class mates may carry different tastes. On a more macro level, I see this show as being popular with old-timers, especially of the baby Boomers and even moreso with the grandparent types. Hell on Wheel clearly fulfills the Western archetype but elevation to the next level of appreciation is extremely unlikely. Another thing—I get it’s a Western centered on the railroad but there really needs to be more female dominated scenes—sure, we got Lily but I need something more. Perhaps there will be flashbacks with Bohannan’s wife but I hope there will be some prostitute turned clever swindler who becomes a pivotal character; or better yet, a debutante who owns Durant. oh yeah, the title is gold.

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